Should Teachers Be Friends with their Students on Facebook?

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by SimonQ錫濛譙

Since I’m done for the semester and most of the stress is gone, I thought I’d take this time to blog about some things that I haven’t talked about on my blog this semester in ECMP 355.  The question of having teacher-student relationships or teacher-parent relationships on Facebook came up quite a bit in class.  I personally think that it’s not the greatest idea when you are dealing with elementary or high school students and their parents.  For me, my Facebook account is for personal updates and connecting with friends I have made over the years.  If we have students or parents as friends on Facebook, everything you say or do could be criticized.  It seems as though if someone finds out that their teacher has a life, it’s the end of the world.  I remember when I was in high school, we would think it was the craziest thing if we saw our teachers out at the grocery store or in any public place.  It’s as if we thought that teachers live at the school or something!  I feel like it’s okay once your students are out of school, especially if you have developed a great relationship with that teacher.  For example, I’m friends with my teacher from high school on Facebook and she is one of my inspirations to become a teacher!  I think this is not such a big deal with university students, however.  At this point, we should all be mature enough to be able to do this.  Once you get to university, professors start to treat you as adults and equals.  You may even develop friendships and mentoring relationships with these professors.

I think it’s a great idea to start a page on Facebook or create a Facebook account solely for educational purposes.  We explored this when we looked at the Hackel Hub Facebook Page.  This teacher documents what’s going on in the classroom and what the students are learning about.  This is a great way for parents and guardians to be involved in their children’s learning and for them to be aware of what their children are learning.  Seeing their child’s successes and progress will ensure that their children are in good hands!  Before the teacher posted anything, the teacher sent out a permission form for the students to be shown on the Facebook page.  The options were: I allow my child to be photographed with their name, I allow my child to be photographed without their name or I don’t allow my child to be featured on the page.  The page is completely private, so only people that are friends with this Facebook page will be able to see the content.

Overall, I think using Facebook for educational purposes is a good thing, but only if it is used in the right way.  This is my own personal opinion, but having students access your personal Facebook page may become problematic.  Students and teachers may analyze and criticize what you say on this social media site.  They also may think of you as less of an authoritative or role model figure because of the things you post.  This all comes down to how you portray yourself online, though.  You may not have problems with this, depending on what you post.  Facebook may be another way that you choose to develop your digital identity.  In the end, I think that using Facebook to document and update family members on your students’ progress is a beneficial way to use this social media site.

What do you think? Is it appropriate to accept friend requests from students?


Digital Identity

Today in ECMP 355, we talked about the idea of digital identity and how important it is to keep a professional view of yourself online as an educator.  I’m assuming that most people have heard of the math teacher, named Carly Mckinney, that was fired earlier this year for posting semi-nude photos of herself and photos of her smoking marijuana on Twitter.  What I found interesting about this story was the fact that she was not fired right away because she argued that she was free to post whatever she wanted.  Meanwhile, in 2011, Ashley Payne was fired for posting a Facebook photo from her holidays of her holding both a glass of beer and a glass of wine.  She was forced to either resign or be suspended right away. I think it is reasonable that Carly was fired for obvious reasons, but I feel like Ashley’s punishment was a little dramatic.  I don’t believe that a teacher holding an alcoholic drink is necessarily a bad thing because everybody has a casual drink every now and again!  It baffles me that this is worthy of automatic suspension!  I would understand if the photo was of her being blatantly drunk and irresponsible, but this was just a few drinks on a holiday!

My ECMP class today reminded me of how important it is to keep a professional digital identity, especially as a future teacher and especially since different schools and parts of the world will not be accepting of everything.  We do need to realize, however, that teachers are still human beings and they do have lives other than teaching.  I believe that teachers should be able to embrace who they are online as a teacher and as an everyday human, obviously within appropriate standards.  For example, I think tweeting about your life, whether it’s about family, achievements, feelings, etc., is a great thing because it shows that you are willing to share those personal moments with students, friends, followers and parents.  It shows that you are not just a teacher, but a friend–a person you can rely on and talk to.